The use of detention and alternatives to detention in the context of immigration policies in Belgium and in the EU (EMN)
This focused study presents an analysis of (Member) States use of detention and alternatives to detention in the context of immigration policies and identifies similarities, differences and good practices in this field
This study is mainly concerned with the use of detention and alternatives to detention by (Member) States and its impacts on the effectiveness of (Member) States’ return policies and international protection procedures.
26 EMN National Contact Points, among which Belgium, have contributed to this study. They have been provided with a common template in order to facilitate comparability and the identification of similarities, differences and good practices.
Detention and alternatives to detention in Belgium and in the EU are used in compliance with legal instruments of the EU migration and asylum acquis, which stipulate that immigration detention is justified only for a set of specific grounds applied in specific situations, in particular :
- Directive 2008/115/EC (Return Directive) and
- Directive 2003/9/EC and its recast 2013/33/EU (Reception Conditions Directive)
In the case of Belgium, the authorities make use of both detention and alternatives to detention in the context of immigration policies. The competent administrative authority is the Immigration Office (Home Affairs).
- There are five detention facilities spread over the country with a capacity of approximately 521 places. In 2013, 6285 persons were held in a detention facility.
- Law forbids the detention of unaccompanied minors. As for families they are currently only held in family units, which is an alternative to detention that was put in place in October 2008.
Challenges to detention and alternatives to detention in Belgium:
- Improving the individual assessment procedure to determine the appropriateness of a detention measure
- Overcoming practical and budgetary issues and implementing other foreseen alternatives to detention
- Addressing the high rate of absconding in family units
Read more on the Belgian study here.
EU Synthesis Report
The synthesis report is based on contributions from EMN National Contact Points in 25 Member States plus Norway. Besides this, an EMN Inform summarizes the findings from the study.
The main similarities identified within the scope of this study are:
- Detention of vulnerable persons is either explicitly prohibited or possible only under certain circumstances in the vast majority of (Member) States;
- Common patterns in the provision of basic services (medical care, legal aid, language support and the right to have contact with the outside world) have been identified across (member) States;
- The existence of alternatives to detention has been attested in all (Member) States.
The main differences identified within the scope of this study are:
- National legal frameworks do show variations across (Member) States with regard to the categories of third-country nationals that can be placed in detention and the corresponding grounds for detention;
- Differences exist across (Member) States in the types of detention facilities and the basic material conditions provided to detainees ;
- The role of judicial authorities with regard to detention varies significantly across (Member) States
It is difficult to measure the impact of placing third-country nationals in detention or in alternatives to detention on the effectiveness of (Member) States’ return policies and international protection procedures as very little data are available to evaluate this question.
Overall, the data that has been gathered for the purpose of this study suggests however that: the impact of detention and alternatives to detention on the ability of Member States to reach and execute prompt and fair decisions regarding return may be rather insignificant.